Experts expect the number of people permanently working from home to double pre-pandemic levels as we move forward into 2021. Remote and flexible working conditions are here to stay. Many companies have noted increased productivity, reduced office costs and employee expectations as the driving factors to make the switch.
While there are many positives, remote working brings some issues that require a shifting perspective. One of those challenges is the need to reassess the way we communicate.
Remote work requires more engagement and intentional communication.
Think of how many informal talks happen daily in an office setting - water cooler chats and accidental meetings that lead to great conversations, opportunities to clarify and question instructions, or a quick kudos for a job well done.
We often undervalue the importance of this informal type of communication.
Benefits of Informal Communication.
Natural conversations encourage team building, connection, and relationship development. There is a social aspect to work, and when people can make friends and enjoy spending time with those they work with, they are happier, more dedicated, and more productive.
Those face-to-face chats with co-workers allow for immediate questions and clarifications. Employees can resolve issues swiftly, leading to fewer misunderstandings and fewer delays in processes.
It also allows you to throw the hierarchy of formal communication out the window – the CEO chatting with an entry-level worker may not happen within traditional channels. But, informal workplace chats allow those who may otherwise not communicate to have a conversation.
The casual conversations that happen naturally in an office can lead to the sharing of great ideas. When employees feel at ease, and natural conversation can flow, they will be more apt to share their views, leading to innovation and improvements within the workplace.
How do we replicate informal communication within a remote workplace?
Use a variety of communication channels. Mix it up between written communication, video chats, phone calls, and more informal apps such as slack.
Encourage team-building exercises. Be sure to set these up during company time. A team-building activity after hours on a Friday night will only lead to resentment and have the opposite effect you want.
Consider ways to obtain on-going feedback, such as pulse surveys or fluidly through crowd-sourcing applications – encourage open communication and the sharing of ideas.
Be intentional in your communication – be sure to check in with your team to have open chats. Create opportunities to have those little check-ins that would be happening spontaneously within the workplace.
Be aware of your team's personality types – the extroverts may need a little more chatting and face-to-face time than the introverts.
Be sure to check-in and not check-up. Those water cooler chats aren't time to check up on progress; the focus is on asking your employees how they are doing and how you can support them.
Add the human touch to your communication – make sure your employees know you value them as people and not assets.
The key to engaging remote employees is to replicate the natural conversations that happen within an office. Because these opportunities don't happen organically when working from home, we must intentionally create them.
The Foundation for Creating Intentional Communication.
What are my key messages? What are the critical points that I need to get across? Define who needs to know what, on a business level, department-wide, and individually.
What is my intention? Am I looking to share information, solve a problem, or get a decision?
What methods are available to me? What is the best way to communicate this information – email, phone call, or video?
Who is my audience? Understanding as much as you can about your audience and their driving factors will lead to the best outcome.
The companies that can get this right will come out stronger and in the lead. The future of our workplaces is changing, and we must adapt to it. Employees are going to expect remote options as we advance. The companies who nail flexibility and successfully give opportunities to work from home will attract the top talent.